Information sourced from CNET, slightly modified, by Queenie Wong
Gucci, Dyson and other big brands are experimenting with immersive virtual experiences.
As I walked into Alo Yoga, the sound of babbling waterfalls, the chirping of birds, and the sound of my light footsteps awakened my senses. I passed faceless white mannequins and shelves of pink, yellow and meerschaum green yoga mats.T-shirts, leggings and socks line the walls.
For a moment, I forgot where I was. Then I realized I couldn’t touch anything. I’m not in a brick and mortar store. I’m sitting in front of my computer, using the gaming platform Roblox, and immersing myself in an experience called Alo Sanctuary.
In real life, Alo’s black and white GOAT jacket costs $268. In Alo Sanctuary, Roblox users can get this virtual jacket after completing five days of meditation. Shopping has never felt so peaceful, or cheaper.
Roblox’s Alo Sanctuary includes a virtual store where people can get virtual clothing by practicing meditation. Source: Roblox
Alo Sanctuary is just one example of how big brands can penetrate the Metaverse. The Metaverse has been hyped, and Facebook has tied its own future to it, renaming it Meta, but it’s still largely unformed. It could fail like many of the previous concepts. If these virtual worlds catch on, though, the Metaverse could change the way businesses attract new customers and the way people shop. Unlike traditional online or brick-and-mortar shopping, these immersive virtual spaces push the boundaries of real-life possibilities.
Sky Canaves, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence, said: “The concept of a virtual store being just a replica of a real-world store is not very exciting because in the digital world you don’t need to be bound by four walls or a specific location,” she said. , in the Metaverse, shopping may be “more decentralized” and “experiential.”
Gucci, Nike, Vans and Ralph Lauren have created their own Roblox experiences, some charging for digital clothing and accessories. Roblox users buy digital goods with a virtual currency called Robux, which they can buy with U.S. dollars or earn by developing games for the platform.
Roblox isn’t the only game using virtual commerce. The Metaverse can encompass a wide variety of virtual experiences, enabled by games, virtual reality, and augmented reality, which overlays a user’s view of the physical world with computer graphics.
Apple is rumored to be working on an AR/VR headset that Canaves says could be a “game changer” for Metaverse commerce. AR is already changing the way we shop, allowing people to try items like lipstick, glasses and furniture in a virtual environment before buying them in real life.
Rec Room, a gaming platform that can be used on mobile phones, video game consoles and VR headsets, has a virtual outdoor mall called Ink Inc. where users can try on and buy clothing, furniture, plush toys and other digital goods to dress up their avatars or decorate their rooms.
Shopping isn’t limited to virtual goods. Last year, Dyson released an app that showcased the technology behind products like hair dryers, curling irons and straighteners that people could buy in real life. Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has partnered with Fortnite to sell not only virtual skins (clothes players wear in video games), but limited-edition (and not cheap) Fortnite clothing.
At SXSW last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he envisions that people in the virtual world will want to express themselves through clothing just as much as they do in the real world. They also want to be able to bring their digital purchases, like a virtual jacket or sweater, into a different experience. “If everything you buy is confined to one app or one game, it’s going to be much less useful,” he said.
Create an immersive experience
Alo Yoga and Sawhorse Productions have created a virtual island on Roblox. Source: Roblox
Last December, Sawhorse Productions partnered with Alo Yoga to design a virtual sanctuary in Roblox, the Los Angeles-based content studio that wanted to create an experience that wasn’t just a display of yoga clothing. The studio was inspired by the client’s name. “Alo” stands for Air, Land and Sea and is part of the “Alo Sanctuary”.
“One of our goals is to bring positive energy to the Metaverse and reach a younger audience than their core audience,” said Nic Hill, co-founder and head of post-production and interaction at Sawhorse. About 48% of Roblox users under the age of 13. In the last three months of 2021, about 50 million people visit the platform every day.
The virtual experience was released during New York Fashion Week in February, when Alo offered a daily meditation experience at its real-life Wellness Sanctuary at Spring Studios in New York City. In addition to bringing more awareness to the brand, Alo Sanctuary is also a charity event. Alo said that every time a Roblox user completes a “positive energy exercise task,” the company makes a donation to a mental health program.
This story is part of CNET’s next iteration of exploring the internet. Credit: Naomi Antonino
Roblox users can earn virtual Alo products as a reward for practicing meditation. Yoga mats are free, enticing people to spend more time in the space and earn more virtual props. Users can also wear Alo Yoga apparel in other Roblox spaces, allowing the brand to market across the platform. Alo said at least 353,663 Roblox users wore virtual GOAT jackets. Alo Sanctuary has more than 20 million visits.
The studio wanted this virtual sanctuary to feel like a place not found in the real world, but it also took inspiration from the real-world Alo Yoga store. In this virtual world, I look like a yellow Lego character with pink lipstick, headphones, and a denim jacket. Even though the island and my character looked cartoonish, the sound was immersive. As my character walks from sand to grass, I notice a slight change in the sound of my footsteps.
I got my first virtual prop after completing an introductory meditation session. As my avatar unfolded the yoga mat and sat cross-legged in lotus pose, I took a deep breath and counted to six. “You’ve unlocked the Alo Crew Neck,” reads a notification from Roblox after a minute of meditation. “The item will be in your Roblox inventory within hours.”
This isn’t Alo’s first foray into virtual worlds. In 2020, the company partnered with skincare brand Tatcha to release virtual lavender costumes in the Nintendo game Animal Crossing.
Buy and sell virtual clothing and accessories
The emergence of new virtual worlds has also given people the opportunity to sell their own products.
Rook Vanguard is a pseudonymous game developer who designs virtual accessories in Roblox for Gucci and other major brands. One of his specialties is digital accessories like wings, top hats, and color-changing halos. His best-selling product is a black-and-white mask that can change from a happy face to a sad face. The price is 85 Robux, which is about $1.
“Most people buy for the lowest price possible, which is what I personally do for my collection, depending on the item,” Vanguard said. “We just want more people to be able to wear it.”
Celebrities have made a fortune selling virtual clothing. Swedish pop star Zara Larsson hosted a virtual dance party in Roblox last May, telling the BBC she made $1 million selling virtual items such as hats and sunglasses.
Creating and selling virtual items for characters is one way Roblox users make money. According to a blog post on the topic, about 30% of sales go to the creator of the item, 40% to the seller of the item, and 30% to Roblox. Roblox will convert Robux to USD if there are at least 50,000 Robux in the account. (The exchange rate used by Roblox is approximately 35/10,000th of a dollar per earned Robux, so 50,000 Robux equals approximately $175). Developers must file a tax form, and Roblox reports cash income over $600 to the IRS.
Like physical items, there is a market for used virtual items on Roblox. Just like in the real world, Roblox users will snap up items they think will add value, hoping to profit from them. The only caveat is that Robux earned by trading or selling virtual items cannot be exchanged for USD.
Bay Area resident George Tolsma III, also known as GeorgeTheDev, owns thousands of Roblox props, including more than 700 racing helmets, Gucci bags and a 15-year-old American flag hat he tried to sell for 7 million Robux sell. Tolsma said he uses Robux to pay other developers to help improve the games he develops on the platform.
Digital items can have the same emotional value as physical items, but owning them feels different because you can’t actually touch them, he said.
“It’s almost like you have a verified badge on your Twitter,” Tolsma said.
More than just hype?
The idea of selling virtual goods to dress up characters isn’t new. Virtual reality and augmented reality have been around for many years. The same goes for the concept of buying physical goods through VR.
The game Second Life, released in 2003, allows people to buy virtual goods for their avatars, just like Roblox. In 2016, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba launched an app called Buy Plus that allows people to use its payment app to buy physical goods displayed in digital malls and have them shipped to their homes.
In January, luxury brand Hermès sued artist Mason Rothschild for infringing its trademark. Rothschild has been selling fur-covered Birkins as digital assets known as NFTs.
When Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook, he called the Metaverse the successor to the mobile internet.Some of the physical objects we have today will be “holograms designed by creators around the world,” he said.
Many real-world business challenges, such as counterfeit goods, have impacted the creation of digital goods and assets. In Roblox, I stumbled across a fake virtual Gucci garden. I know this is fake because the campaign has ended on May 31, 2021. In January, luxury brand Hermès sued American artist Mason Rothschild for allegedly misappropriating his trademark after Rothschild made a fur-covered Birkin bag and sold it as a digital asset. Hermès did not respond to a request for comment.
Brands will have to convince consumers that shopping in the Metaverse is worth it. According to a December survey by eMarketer (which has since changed its name to Insider Intelligence), about 41 percent of U.S. adults are not interested in shopping in AR or VR, nor have they ever used it.
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